Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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The Florida “Virtual” Half Marathon

As most people who know me are aware, I have a bit of an addiction to race medals. I think it’s the last vestige of my pack rat-ness, which I’ve worked very hard to overcome over the year, combined with liking shiny objects. It allows me to satisfy my pack rat nature of wanting to hold on to physical items, but since I have to work to earn them, I can’t accumulate them too quickly. Also, shiny!

One of my favourite of my race medals is the one I got from the Hollywood Half Marathon – it was, in fact, being told that the Hollywood Half Marathon medal is a big blingy star that inspired me to do that race in the first place1. Apparently the Hollywood Half Marathon had a sister race in Hollywood, Florida, in 2012, but they discontinued it and, I’m guessing, had a bunch of medals leftover that they wanted to unload, so they set up a “virtual” half marathon where if you sent in a link to a running tracking service (like Runkeeper or your Garmin/Polar/Nike GPS watch data) that showed you had run at least 21.1 km (and you paid a nominal fee), they would send you a shiny Hollywood Florida Half Marathon medal. I hemmed and hawed about it for a while, but in the end I couldn’t resist the lure of the shiny object! Plus it got me one medal closer to achieving my 2015 goal of Add 5 new medals to my collection, so really, everybody wins2!

Florida Hollywood Virtal Half Marathon medal

  1. Well that and the fact that it has a flat course! []
  2. Where by “everybody” I mean “me” []

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15 New Food Items That I Made This Year

As previously mentioned, I’ve already completed my goal to Make 15 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before  in 2015 – in fact, I’ve actually surpassed my goal by making *16* new items. I got myself a nice head start by having a birthday party where I made 6 new items that I’d never tried before. Then I racked up a few more items by having made a batch of home-brewed beer that ended up suboptimally carbonated, but since I didn’t want it to go to waste, I looked up recipes that involved beer – those, plus making dog biscuits from the spent grains of another batch of beer totalled another 5 items, which meant I only needed to make 4 other things to hit my goal of 15!

So, for the record, the new things I made so far this year that I’d never made before were:

15 Food Items Made Date Comments
1 Chocolate buttercream frosting (for Daniel’s birthday cake) 1-Jan-2015 I got a lot of compliments on this!
2 sweet and spicy pecans and cashews 12-Jan-2015 Very tasty!
3 caramelized onion, mushroom, apple and Gruyère puff pastry bites 12-Jan-2015 These were a HUGE hit!
4 cucumbers with salmon whip and dill whip 12-Jan-2015 No one seemed all that into these
5 slow cooker gingered chickpea and tomato stew 12-Jan-2015 Pretty good!
6 cheese puffs 12-Jan-2015 Got this recipe from my niece. They were amazing!
7 homemade sour mix 12-Jan-2015 Needed this for a drink I wanted to make, but couldn’t find it in any store
8 Swiss cheese beer bread 4-Feb-2015 Really easy and super tasty!
9 potato, cheddar & beer soup 4-Feb-2015 This was OK (though I’m not a huge soup fan, so YMMV)
10 beer marinated pork chops 4-Feb-2015 Pretty good!
11 brown ale potato galette 12-Mar-2015 Pretty good!
12 black bean & mushroom tortilla casserole 12-Mar-2015 I quite liked this
13 spent grain dog biscuits 28-Mar-2015 made these from spent grains from home brewing. My brewing buddy’s dog loved them!
14 rice pilaf 29-Mar-2015 I didn’t really like this.
15 BBQ short ribs 14-Jun-2015 These were amazing!
16 grilled potato skins 4-Jul-2015 I’d make these again!

I’ll continue to keep track of any other new things I make for the second half of 2015 and see how high a number I can hit!

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Goals 2015 – Mid-Year Check-in

So it’s just past the halfway point in the year and I figure that means it’s a good time to do a check-in on my goals for the year!

Of my 15 goals, 4 goals are completed:

  • Organize all my closets
  • Set up a new investment plan
  • Pay off 7.5% of my mortgage principal – I’ve actually paid off 9% of the principal I had owing at the start of the year – and counting!
  • Make 15 new food or drink items that I’ve never made before – this one warrants its own blog posting!

6 goals are on track:

  • Run two half marathons – having done the BMO half, I’m 50% complete on this goal and I’m registered for the Montreal half as my second half of the year.
  • Run a sub-2 hour half marathon – being less than 3 minutes off of hitting this goal in May and into my training for Montreal in September, I think there’s a reasonable chance I could get this one done.
  • Run 800 km – I’ve run 500.3 km so far this year, which puts me at 62% complete. I’ve got another 9 weeks of training left for Montreal, and then I’m running a 10 km in October, so I’ll be motivated to do some more runs after Montreal… so I’m really hoping I can complete this goal this.
  • Add 5 new medals to my collection – I’ve got two so far – BMO half marathon and the Florida virtual half (which I just realize that I have failed to blog about!) and am registered for three more races (Montreal half, PNE Donut 5 km (also warrants a blog posting), and the Vancouver Rock’n’Roll 10 km – so as long as I do all those races, I’ll have 5 shiny new medals in my collection…. plus, since Montreal & Vancouver are both Rock’n’Roll events, I will also get the “double beat” medal for running two R’n’R events in one calendar year – so I’ll actually add 6 new medals!
  • Bring lunch to work more often than I buy lunch at work. I have a spreadsheet to track this one (because spreadsheet) and I currently sit at 49% of my lunches having been brought from home so far this year, so I really should make a more concerted effort to bring this number up to give myself some breathing room!
  • Complete 15 items from my 101 list. I’ve completed nine items (looks like that’s another blog posting I need to write!) and have booked something for next Monday which will, if all turns out well, allow me to knock item number 91 off my list.

4 goals have been neglected so far:

  • Complete the 100 push up challenge.
  • Lose those last 5 lbs that I gained during my MBA. I
  • Write a will.
  • Apply for at least one research grant.

And then there’s this one:

  • Write 115 blog postings. So far in 2015, I’ve written a mere 37 blog postings. Which means I need to write 14 blog postings per month – or 3.25 blog postings per week – for the remainder of the year to hit this target. Challenge accepted!

As a bonus goal, I decided the other day to set a goal of reading 15 books in 2015, mostly because Goodreads kept harassing me to set a goal every time I logged into the app. I’ve currently read 10 books this year (and am in the middle of a few others), so I’m on track for that one too.

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Running Math

So it’s just 7 days until my next half marathon and I’m really not sure if I’m going to be able to achieve my goal of a sub-2 hour finsih. I’ve been far more diligent in my training since… well, pretty much since the first half marathon I ever ran. I completed all my hill runs. I’m doing my interval training. I did the long Sunday runs with my running club1. I feel strong and I have improved my pace, but I just don’t know if I’ve improved it enough to reach my goal.

I’m hoping to see this (or better) when I cross that finish line next week:

Image Credit: Posted by Adam Fagen on Flickr.

The thing with races, you see, is that you always run way faster on race day than you do when you are doing a training run. You aren’t even really trying to do it – you are just full of adrenaline and the energy of the crowd takes you away and you start running and you don’t feel like you are running that fast but when you check your pace, you are. When I ran the Hollywood Half marathon I was convinced that the 2:15 pace bunny2 was screwing up, because Alicia and I were way ahead of her and I was thinking “there’s no way we are running faster than a 2:15!” And then it turned out that we were – we finished in 2:09:57!

But the question is, just how much faster do you run on a race than during training? For example, the longest distance that I do in training is 20 km and my 20 km training run this time was 14 minutes quicker than my 20 km training run last June for Scotiabank. My finish time for Scotiabank last year was 2:15:05. Which begs the question: will a 14 minute improvement in my 20 km training run translate into a 15 minute improve on race day?

To try to figure this out, I turn to my old friend, Math. As luck would have it3, I have records of my 20 km training times for my last 7 half marathons (plus the finish times for my last 7 half marathons, of course). Now, I once swore to my MBA stats prof that I would always graph my data, so here’s a graph of said data:

The times are shown in seconds per km (rather than minutes:seconds per km) because despite all the awesome things that MS Excel can do, handling time values is not one of them. As you can see, my pace for my 20 km training time is not a good predictor of my pace on race day. On the plus side, my race pace is *always* faster than my training pace, but it has ranged from a mighty 1:15 per km faster (Scotiabank 2011) to a meagre 0:08 per km faster (Edge to Edge Tofino half marathon, of the horrible hills and knee injury infamy). I run an average of 0:46 per km faster on my races than my 20 km training runs, but given the aforementioned wide spread of the data, I wouldn’t take that average to be a good predictor Moreover, I hope it isn’t, because if I run my race next Sunday at 45 seconds faster than my 20 km training run, I’ll finish the half marathon in 2:13, which is despairingly slow.

Just to be sure that the graph wasn’t misleading me, I ran a linear regression analysis and found there is not, in fact, a statistically significant linear relationship between my 20 km training time and my pace time4. I even tried calling the Edge to Edge Tofino half marathon an outlier, so I could remove it from the data set, but there’s still no statistically significant relationship.

So, in conclusion, apparently my 20 km training pace is not a good predictor of how I’ll do next week. There’s just too many other facts at play I guess – whether I was giving ‘er on my training run or not, conditions on race day, whether the race route is insanely hilly à la Edge to Edge or a beautiful net downhill like Scotiabank5.

Something that Daniel taught me that he does with his races is having not just one goal, but a staged series of goals. If you only set a goal that you know you can achieve, then you aren’t going to have to push yourself to achieve it. But if you only set a goal that is really, really hard to achieve, you run the risk of not being able to appreciate what you do achieve because you didn’t reach that single, really tough goal that you set for yourself6. So I’m going to go into this race with three staged goals:

  1. a sub-2 hour half marathon – This is my ultimate goal. As described above, I don’t know if I will achieve this, but I don’t think it’s totally out of the realm of possibility7.
  2. a new personal best. My current PB Is 2:07:23, so I don’t acheive a sub-2 hr but I do better than 2:07:23, I willl be happy.
  3. finish. Even if I don’t set a new PB, it will still be an accomplishment to finish a half marathon. And given that this is my 12th half, I think finishing an even dozen of these races will be an accomplishment to be proud of.

Footnotes:

  1. Except for a few weeks where I have something else going on on Sunday morning, in which case I completed my long runs on my own at another time. []
  2. i.e., the person who runs at the pace that will result in finishing the race in 2 hrs 15 mins. Races have people like this for all sorts of different paces, so if you want to achieve a specific finish time, you can run with the corresponding pace bunny. []
  3. Where by “luck”, I mean, my nerdy habit of keeping records of everything. []
  4. I was hoping, before I started this, that I’d find a statistically significant relationship and then I could use the equation of the line to predict my finish time! Math, you have dashed my hopes! []
  5. Happily, next Sunday’s race route is also net downhill! []
  6. I’ve seen this happen before where someone sets a stretch goal and though they didn’t quite reach it, they really improved over their last race, yet they are sad at the end of the race and can’t enjoy the fact that they set a new personal best or took at a good amount of time off their previous race. []
  7. Unlike the last few times where I started training with a sub-2 hour goal, but wasn’t really diligent in my training and knew by race day that I would not be anywhere near that. []

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Doing All The Things!

So apparently I’ve decided to do all the things, which means that I have eleventy billion things to blog about and no time in which to write said blog posting1, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for a bullet list! List all the bullets!

  • Both my teams’ winter hockey seasons have come to an end. My Burnaby team got knocked out of the playoffs yesterday, but we made a decent showing in both of our playoff games and besides, this was a rebuilding year. My Coquitlam team made it all the way to the finals and lost a heartbreaker in OT.
  • Speaking of hockey, remember the beginning of the NHL season when I joined a fantasy hockey league? As it turns out, I abandoned all gimmicks after week one and actually changed my picks each week (it’s the kind of pool where you get to pick new players each week) and would you believe that actually putting effort into it, rather than being goofy, resulted in me winning the pool? Now I am the proud owner of all the bragging rights!
  • Also, speaking of hockey, I’m taking another set of hockey lessons. I signed up for a class called “Shoot to Score” and based on this description: “The Shoot to Score program is designed for adults wanting to exclusively improve their scoring ability. The program will incorporate skating, passing and puck control but a major emphasis will be placed on developing a players wrist shot, snapshot, back hander, slap shot, one-timer and shooting while in motion“, I made the silly mistake of thinking that I’d be learning to shoot the puck. Instead, the class is being taught as “forward” class, with the other half of the rink being “defenceman” class and then at the end of the lesson they put the two groups together and run drills against each other. I’m a bit disappointed, because I really wanted to work on my shot, which is terrible, but I am learning a bunch of stuff that I think will improve my game, so I’m still going2.
  • Speaking of lessons, our salsa dance instructors told me that I’m good enough to move on to level “Intermediate 2”3! We are just at the start of our third set of “Intermediate 1”, so I think that’s pretty good, as they actually have 4 different sets of “Intermediate 1” classes that people can go through. The problem, however, is that our instructors don’t offer “Intermediate 2” on a night that we are available, so we have to hope that in the next set of lessons, they switch up the nights or we may need to find a new dance studio.
  • Speaking of working on stuff, I’m just 17 days away from my next half marathon4! Since my usual running partner, Alicia, isn’t running this race with me, I decided to sign up for a Sunday morning running clinic that was set up to train for the BMO half, so I’d have people to run with, as the long runs start to get a bit boring by the end of the training if you don’t have company. The group is run out of Fit First in Burnaby (the same place I did my running study) and I’ve enjoyed having company to run with5.

    Here’s a photo of my running clinic group – aren’t we a good looking group?

    I have more to say about my training, but I think that I’ve got a whole blog posting on that (spoiler: there’s a spreadsheet involved!), if only I can find the time to write it. I will say that my ambitious goal, which I’m not sure I will be able to achieve, is to run a sub-2 hr half marathon, which has been on my “to do” list since forever and is currently sitting my list of goals for 2015.

  • Speaking of my “to do” list, I’ve completed yet another item off my list of 101 things to do in 1001 days: #64: Go on a Paddle Wheeler cruise down the Fraser River). Daniel and I went on this cruise last Friday and we had a really good time. We tried to take a selfie that I could put in this posting, but could not get anything even halfway decent (at least in part because I didn’t think to take a photo until after we’d gone out on the ship’s deck in the rain and my hair becomes a complete rat’s nest at the slightest sign of a drop of water). Also, by sheer coincidence, a woman from our salsa dancing class was there with a bunch of her friends, and while there was no salsa music, we all had lots of fun hitting the dance to some old school tunes mixed with some current hits.
  • And speaking about my 101 list, I’ve also knocked #7 – “Be written about in the New Westminster Record” off the list, with this article about the Arts Council of New West, where I happen to be on the board of directors. I really like the photo we had taken:

    For the record, I didn’t know everyone else was going to be wearing black, grey or blue when I chose a red shirt!

  • And also speaking of my 101 list, I have just booked a trip to Halifax in May, which will knock #46 – “Go to Nova Scotia” off that list and will leave me just one province short of having been to all the provinces in Canada6. I’m going to a conference in Halifax to present some of my research, which will be fun. I’ll also get to stop by Toronto on my way home to visit the fam for a few days, which will be awesome. And, as it so happens, I’ll be there for my nephew’s birthday party, which will be doubly awesome!
  • Speaking of trips, Daniel and I have registered for the Montreal full and demi-marathon, respectively, in Montreal in September. So I’ll get to see some family then too, as I have family who live there and my mom plans to go there while we are there too.
  • And speaking of seeing my family, my sister is coming to present at a conference in Vancouver in June and my mom is going to join her for the trip. The kitties are very excited to see their grandmother again and to meet their Aunt Nancy!
  • And finally, speaking of people visiting, I get to see Sarah on Sunday, as she is going to be in Seattle, so I’m going to drive down there to hang out! So excited!

So, as you can see, I am clearly doing all the things and I haven’t even talked about, you know, work, teaching, and various other gadding about that I do. I also hear there’s this cool thing called “getting enough sleep” that I’d totally love to check out someday, if I can only find the time!

  1. As a microcosm of my doing all the things, while writing this blog posting, I’m also doing laundry, doing dishes, baking cherry squares for the bake sale that my office is having tomorrow, watching the Winnipeg Jets v. Anaheim Ducks playoff game and being kneaded on by Crick. Oh, now I’m being climbed all over by Crick. Crick is really turning into quite the lap cat, especially when I’m trying to type something. []
  2. Incidentally, if anyone knows of any good classes where I can actually learn to shoot the puck, let me know! []
  3. Daniel’s done Intermediate Level 2 before, so it’s just been me that needed to develop my skills a bit more so we could move on []
  4. The BMO Vancouver []
  5. Though to be totally honest, I really miss running with Alicia! []
  6. Newfoundland, I will conquer you one day! []